The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 283

Publication Date: 2017

Summary: Jacob Churcher, a famous author, hasn’t seen his mother since she kicked him out of the house when he was sixteen years old.  When he finds out that she has passed away, he has to return to his childhood home to take care of the estate.  He finds a diary that ends up leading him on a journey to find his roots as well as true love.

Recommended: Yes.  It was a nice, quick read over the holidays.  Some of the romance in the story was cliche, but the rest of the plot was interesting.

Watch Out For: Child Abuse, Suicide Attempts

Noteworthy Excerpts: “This time I drove a turbo Porsche Cayenne, which is basically a rocket disguised as an SUV. I can’t remember the last time I’d driven the speed limit.”     “I was drunk.’ ‘Sometimes it takes a little alcohol to be honest.”

Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday


Author: Christine Reilly

Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 318

Publication Date: 2016

Summary: This is the story of Claudio and Mathilde – how they met at a party and fell in love and eventually got married and had kids.  It is a story about life – about growing up and living in New York, about tragedies and miracles and the ordinary moments, about the passage of time.  It is a story about keeping secrets and telling truths.  It is a story about how different we are and yet how our lives are all the same. The story spans from the late 1980’s through 2016.

Recommended: YES.  This book is edgy, raw, and very real.  I felt myself connecting to many of the characters, even the ones who are most flawed.  The author’s choice of words is delightful; however, in my advanced reader’s edition there were numerous typos which I assume would have been fixed upon publication.

Watch Out For:  I thought I could include this book in my classroom library but after reading it, no way.  Watch out for inappropriate language (34 instances of the F-word), several drinking and drug references, multiple sexual references including sexual assault and prostitution, an attempted suicide and a violent death scene.

Noteworthy Excerpts:  “There are dreams out there for everyone, – Jane soothed herself upon waking. Dreaming was a more finished version of hoping.”     “On good days, her doctor would say, let’s see if we can try a smaller dosage. On bad days, he’d say, I’m sorry, and after supper they’d feed her more of what made her feel like she was made of soft-serve ice cream.”

The Professors’ Wives’ Club by Joanne Rendell


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 321

Publication Date: 2008

Summary: A group of women bonded by a secret garden in the center of Manhattan University. One woman is trying to gather the courage to leave her abusive husband. One woman is stuck in a loveless marriage and is torn between her lover and her husband. One woman is a stay-at-home mom who misses the drama of being a Hollywood talent agent. One woman lives with her girlfriend but is too afraid to come out to her overbearing parents. A mystery involving Edgar Allan Poe in the background.

Recommended: Yes, this is a fast read with lots of drama! This would be a good choice for a reading group because there is a reading guide at the end of the book.

If You’re Offended: Beware of moderate swearing and sexualized scenes.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “She would come home later and his anger would be forgotten. It was only the times when she stood up to him, the times she argued her point, that he got really mad and then violent.”     “She tried to remind herself that this was her husband, the man she loved, the man she might even have a child with soon. But as she studied him further, he seemed more and more like a stranger, and more and more like someone she used to know and used to love.”


Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 354

Publication Date: 2013

Summary: Teddi (Theodora) Overman grew up in rural Kentucky and has always had a knack for repairing furniture. Due to the kindness of strangers, she ends up realizing her dream of owning a furniture and antique shop in Charleston, SC. The story goes back and forth between the past and present to show you the relationship between Teddi and her family, particularly her brother who went missing years earlier.

Recommended: Yes. This is one of those books that had me turning the pages quickly to see how it would end.  I love that it is set in Charleston, SC as I grew up near there and if you’re from that area, you’ll recognize The Battery, The Citadel, and the Charleston Naval Shipyard among other things. The brother’s story lends an air of mystery to the tale and there is a dash of romance thrown in at the end.

If You’re Offended: A smattering of foul language adds to the story and should not be too distracting. If you are a grammar junkie like I am, you might notice a few editorial errors in the second half of the book but they are rare and do not distract the eye too much.

Noteworthy Excerpt: “Well, she has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Lord only knows what all else is high, low, or out of whack.”    “Dressed in a cream linen suit with a pocket watch chain draped across  his silk plaid vest, the man walked with the aid of a stylish pewter-tipped cane.”

The House on Mango Street


Author: Sandra Cisneros

Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 110

Publication Date: 1984

Summary: In short, separate vignettes, the author talks about growing up in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago in the 1960s and 70s. Each vignette is about everyday, ordinary events, but sometimes the events are more meaningful than the narrator lets on.

Recommended: I went back and forth on this one but I finally settled on yes.  The narrator is the author as she was growing up so sometimes she is not mature enough to truly understand what she is seeing in the neighborhood around her.  The writing is average but again, that’s because it’s the author as a young girl.

If You’re Offended: No problems here.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “She knows to say: He not here for when the landlord comes, No speak English if anybody else comes, and Holy smokes. I don’t know where she learned this, but I heard her say it one time and it surprised me.”       “When you leave you must understand to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.”

The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 342

Publication Date: 2005

Summary: Ivy Ames is a Jewish socialite living the New York high life – she has everything money can buy.  Suddenly her life begins to crumble and she is left without a job and with no real prospects.  Her best friend asks for her advice on how to get her children into the best and most elite kindergartens and Ivy thinks of it as a fantastic business opportunity.  She faces all kind of zany problems trying to help parents get their children into the best schools and has relationship drama of her own along the way.

Recommended: Yes. Some of the scenes are far-fetched (I’m thinking of the alligator disaster) but some of the scenes are pretty funny and certainly outrageous.  I wouldn’t say it is a romance novel but there is certainly a lot of romance thrown in.

If You’re Offended: This book includes a lot of swearing and sexual references.  The sex scenes are short but explicit.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “The cases were filled with every artery-clogging Jewish delicacy that I adored – blintzes, chopped liver, gefilte fish, beef kishke, knishes, rugalach, kasha varnishes. Living above the deli would be hell on my diet.”     “And that’s how Winnie Weiner, nice Jewish girl from the Upper West Side, adored student of Rodeph Shalom Sunday School, became WaShaunte Washington.”